real life

'Last week I broke into my ex's home to steal money to feed my kids. I had no choice.'

This story deals with domestic and financial abuse and could be triggering for some readers.

When you envision falling in love, getting married and having kids, breaking into your former family home to steal change, isn’t part of it.

I was desperate and needed money for fuel, groceries and our kids.

I left an abusive marriage 10 months ago with only my clothes, and four house plants.

Watch: Coercive control is a deliberate pattern of abuse. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

After I secured a rental, paid the bond, and furnished the house, I was scraping by when my casual hours ran out.

After Centrelink, I’m left with $140 a fortnight, I don’t receive child support. Before I knew it, I had no money.

I’d already borrowed from family to cover the bond and couldn’t reach out to ask for more.

I knew my ex was at work, so I jumped the side gate and felt such relief when I saw the toilet window was open.

I pulled the fly wire off, hoisted onto the brick ledge and lowered in, equal parts determined and ashamed.


I knew there was a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of loose change in an old bowl we kept by the entrance.

I loaded up a snap lock bag with gold coins and climbed back out.

I had enough for $20 of petrol, groceries for dinner and school the next day, and the boys after-school snacks.

Every time I paid in coins, I felt embarrassed.

This was one of the lowest points since we’d separated and I’ve had a few, most recently reaching out to the organisations I used to write stories for, asking them for help.

As a writer, having to explain this time the person in need was me.

The Salvos paid a week’s rent; I received a food bank delivery, and food stamps.

I’m an educated, award-winning writer, climbing through a toilet window to steal change to feed my kids, because I was naïve about our finances.

There’s so much taboo surrounding family violence and domestic abuse.

Even the words make me recoil.

It’s not just about black eyes, and broken bones.

Financial control, and emotional abuse happened throughout my entire 12-year relationship.

I didn’t have access to bank accounts, my name wasn’t on anything, I didn’t have a card of my own. 

I was either given a card, or cash when I needed to buy groceries or run errands.


In my naivety, I believed when he said it was too complex for us to have a joint account.

As our relationship grew more hostile, he asked me to stop working to support his business.

Suddenly, I was solely reliant on him.

When we sold our house, the money was in his account, under his name, with only my word and a marriage certificate connecting me to our savings.

If I needed money, he would ask me how much and make me stick out my hand so he could put the notes in one by one.

First, they take your self-worth.

It’s an unwritten contract between the two of you, that they are better, and you are lucky to have them.

Then they take your self-belief.

All the qualities you’ve built your identity upon come crumbling down: you’re not a nice person; you’re a bitch, you’re not gentle; you’re awful.

You’re the dumbest smart person they know.

You look in the mirror and figuratively, and literally speaking no longer recognise the person looking back at you.

I got depression, I hated myself, he told me I was a bad mum, a sloth, lazy.

There were times when I’d try to clean the house top to bottom, and he’d come home and tell me how stupid I was because I started at the wrong end.

Right before I left, I was a mess, I was drinking to black out.


Listen to one of Mamamia's podcasts, Restart, and find out why and how women from across the country are restarting their lives. Post continues after podcast. 

One day on the radio I heard about an abuse hotline, so I called it.

I spoke to a counsellor and relayed about how I can’t access any of our money, I don’t pay any of the bills, how he’d asked me not to work, how I couldn’t do anything right, how stupid I was.

She told me I was in a domestic abusive relationship.

It’s the first time I’d heard someone say it out loud.

I started calling them a couple of times a week, and every time they reiterated the same message.

I looked up a trauma psychologist, started seeing her and then eventually I did what I once thought was impossible, I left.

I walked out the door.

I recently applied for a full-time job, and with a bit of luck, I’ll never be in a situation like this again.

Abuse sneaks up on you, their goal is to make you feel like leaving is impossible, and then make it financial hell for you if you do.

I will forgive so many things, it’s in my nature.

But the worst part of being in an abusive relationship, is someone who was supposed to love me, destroyed me.

When I was little, if I stepped on a snail my dad, would tell me they turn into slugs so I wouldn’t get upset.


And yet my husband, the man I loved unconditionally, who I had children with, made me hate myself.

His constant barrage of insults drowned out my inner voice, and I became everything he said I was.

Now I’m trying to find that girl again.

The one who believes in love, who moves snails off the path closer to the garden, the girl who believes in kindness.

It’s realising all the drugs and alcohol in the world, won’t heal the pain of being hurt by someone I trusted.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, if you’re living life a shell of your former self, take strength in my words: you can and will find yourself again.

You’re stronger than you know, one day you won’t need food stamps, or rent assistance.

You’ll find your way back into the light, you’ll find the path back to you.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 (1800 015 188) for further information.

Feature Image: Canva.